Letter from James Berdan to William Henry Seward, September 9, 1828

  • Posted on: 6 December 2017
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Letter from James Berdan to William Henry Seward, September 9, 1828



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Letter from James Berdan to William Henry Seward, September 9, 1828

action: sent

sender: James Berdan
Birth: 1805-07-04  Death: 1884-08-24

location: New York, NY

receiver: William Seward
Birth: 1801-05-16  Death: 1872-10-10

location: Auburn, NY

transcription: jjh 

revision: jjh 2017-11-20

Page 1

No. 85 Maiden Lane New York
Sept. 9th 1828.
Dear Seward,
Your brother
Birth: 1793-08-23 Death: 1841-02-24
received a few days since the following
translation by Dr Proudfit
Birth: 1777-06-06 Death: 1860-02-11
intended as the inscription for the proposed mon-
"David Berdan
Birth: 1803 Death: 1827-07-20
ad Gradum primum admiSsus est in
Collegio Concordia die octavo Kalend. Augusti Anno Domini
millesimo octingentesimo vicesimo primo; et dum redirect X ab
Europa, in navigio Cameo, morteues est die decimo tertio
Kalend. Augusti, Anno Domini millesimo octingentesimo
vicesimo primo, viginti quatuor annos emensus.
Verecundus fuit, largificus, benevolus, sensu acutifsi-
mo, raro que ingenio praditues.
In memoriam ejuis, hocce monumentum, cum summo
amore structum est, ab Adelphorum Societate, cujus
socius fuerat."
When this inscription was shown by Jennings
to Irving
Birth: 1802-04-03 Death: 1876-02-25
and myself, there were two or three objections which occurred
to us, with some little force. The principal difficulty was one
which was stated by the stone cutter
himself; viz. that the inscrip-
tion was so written, that it would look crowded on ^one side of^ the tablet,
and we were unable to divide it among the four sides of the
monument without weakening the composition, and injuring the
beauty of the epitaph – Then we had other scruples in the
epitaph itself – It was so translated into Latin that we
thought it looked rather cold and meagre, and seemed hardly
to show any merit in the deceased sufficient to entitle him
to a monument, or the monument itself to the attention of the
passenger – In some particulars it is incomplete – it does not state
his birth-place; and gives no reason for his visit to Europe – These
objections would be of less consequence, if the monument did not
as it will now, stand alone – and it is expected of ^by^ those who

[left Margin] A free form note.
X"dum redirect" is not good – it means "while he would return" – "dum redibat"
is "while he was returning" – but either is awkward –

Page 2

see in so conspicuous a place, such public testimony to rendered by
a literary society to the worth of a departed member, that his ^merit^ should
be clearly set out – Southey
says "if it be necessary to ask why
was this monument erected? it is clear that it should not ^have^ been erected" –
Pierre's experiment at New York Schenectady shows how awkward and
embarassing it is for a friend to frame an epitaph – and you have
doubtless felt, as he did, that the cold record for a tomb stone was
what you could not write because it is what you would
not have written if you could have been released —
I have been thus frank in stating to you my objections
to Dr P's translation, because I believe if we were together we would
talk freely and candidly about it – The truth is, I do not believe you
will like it, in its Latinity yourself – For my own part, I now
look upon my brother's memory and name, with feelings which time has
chastened and reflection has softened, and although there was once
a tie of blood and of family which his death has broken, there
is now remaining ^only^ the same sacred and holy memory of early
friendship which you feel, equally with me I believe, to actuate
me – I feel no jealousy of Dr. Proudfit's inscription – But in
judging of it with Pierre, I regarded it, – and tried to judge it, as
a matter of taste –
I consulted with your brother Jennings – the main
objection that the inscription was too long for one side of a tablet
only 20 inches square, and incapable of being divided without des-
troying its force, was sufficient to induce us to endeavour to
get it altered by a competent scholar – As your brother was no
Linguist, and as none of the Committee were here (and we Knew not
where they were,) I undertook this duty —
Yesterday I called on
Professor Anthon
Birth: 1797-11-19 Death: 1867-07-29
of Columbia College who was slightly acquainted with David but
well acquainted with his character and fully able to appreciate it – I told
him my object and then showed him the Inscription which I requested him
Page 3

to correct so as to suit our views – He preferred writing a new one
and this morning handed me the following
Davidis Berdan
In Collegio Concordia
ad Gradum Baccalaurei in Artibus,
Anno Sacro MDCCCXXI,
Lætis auspicis
Curriculo Studiorum confecto,
Alma matris umbracula
Discendens Salutavit,
Et bonarum literarum
Amore incensus
Exteras que regiones visendi
Cupidine inductus,
Patriœ solum, (longum, eheu!) valere jussit.
Europam peragrantim infirma valetudo
Comitata est;
Et in patriam cursus repetens relectos
Diem supremum obivit.

Natus Neo-Ebracaopoli Prid. Id. Febr. MDCCCIII.
Decessit decimo tertio Kal. Aug.
Ætatis suœ XXIV.

Juveni optimo atque singularis exempli,
Cui mores casti et suavissimi,
Cui judicium natura
Animus que afflictis aliorum fortunis
Semper ad misericordiam
Auxilium que, qua potuit, semper
Pudor, Incorrupta Fides, Nudaque Veritas
Quando inveniet

Turn Over

[left Margin] A free form note.
First Side
2d side
3d Side
Page 4

Socio dilectissimo,
Amici et sodales literaii
Ponendum curaverunt.

"Ostendunt terris hunc tantum fata, neque ultra
Efsa sinunt. Nimium vobis sic notra propago
visa potens, superi, propria hœc si dona fuifrent."
This Quotation I would
omit as being too lau-
datory J.B.
Prof. Anthon writes that it should be a secret that he has written an inscription
It is necessary that the inscription be given to the stone cutter immediately in
order to enable your brother to ship the monument at the beginning of the session
Will you write immediately by return of mail your opinion of the inscription and
give us your opinion views – we are unable to see any of the Committee – If you choose
to accept the last inscription, you can say to Prof Proudfit that the other one
would not answer when divided into four, and that it was therefore thought proper
to get a new one – I wish one of the Committee was here, as I know they would
prefer the last – the Latin would do more credit to the college than the other –
This is a business letter – I will write you again in a day or two – There is so
little time left to have the monument completed, that it is necessary to hear from
you about the inscription at once – and I have written this in "hurry and hot haste
Yours forever James Berdan
William H. Seward Esq. Counselor at Law,
New York.


Type: postmark

[left Margin] 4th side.